The oil industry has seen more fatalities from explosions than any other private industry, according to an Environment & Energy Daily article on WyoFile.
More than 10 percent of all job-related fatalities can be directly attributed to oil industry explosions and fires – despite the fact the oil industry only employs approximately one percent of the workforce here in the United States.
Explosion Dangers and Risks
In one oil industry accident, a worker was killed as he attempted to defrost on the back of his truck a valve that had frozen overnight. The technique the worker used is not uncommon in the industry. However, this time it unfortunately resulted in an explosion that launched him 75 feet over a 7-foot-tall barbed wire fence.
As the oil industry continues to expand into more heavily populated areas, residents living in these areas are being put at risk. In 2012, an oil well explosion resulted in an oil storage tank being launched 250 feet away and a young worker being killed. Many others in the surrounding community were thankfully spared as neither the explosion nor the tank affected the local neighborhood that borders the oil well site. Despite the dangers, a new well was drilled a few weeks later in the same area.
In many states, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allows wells to be drilled between 100 to 500 feet from homes. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) found that the zoning requirements were extremely lenient. It also found that at least 44 members of the public have been killed, and other 25 injured, in oil or gas site fires and explosions since 1983. A number of these were teenagers and young adults simply looking for a place to “hang out.”
While it is true that many actions have been taken over the years to improve safety at oil drilling sites, dangerous habits and processes continue to be used by oil extraction companies. Common factors contributing to explosions in the oil industry include:
- Equipment failure
- Lack of proper training
- Employee or employer negligence
- Inadequate maintenance
- Failure to follow safety procedures
- Unreasonable deadlines
- Chemical leaks
In an oil industry explosion, who is liable?
Liability in these types of accidents varies significantly from case to case. Depending on the circumstances leading up to the explosion, many parties are potentially liable for any injuries or wrongful death. In cases where an explosion can be traced back to a faulty rig or improper rig installation, rig manufacturers could be held liable. Drillers who fail to follow proper safety procedures, or who attempt to use shortcuts in an effort to increase profitability, may find themselves facing costly insurance claims or lawsuits.